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Interludium de clerico et puella


Abbreviations: B&S: J. A. W. Bennett and G. V. Smithers; Co: Albert Cook; MS: British Library MS Additional 23986, vellum roll, verso side.

The incipit appears as follows: Hic incipit Interludium de clerico et puella.

2 Saynt Michel. B&S assert that "there seems to be no very specific point in this invocation" (p. 372), yet the invocation of this particular saint seems appropriate to the themes of the play and forms a rather suggestive subtext. The archangel Michael fights in a cosmic battle against Satan in the Book of Revelation. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Saints, ed. David Hugh Farmer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), in a second-century text called The Testament of Abraham, "Michael is the principal character whose intercession is so powerful that souls can be rescued from Hell. Perhaps this passage inspired the offertory antiphon formerly used for the Roman liturgy for the dead" (pp. 300-01). Michael was also the patron saint of cemeteries; his cult was so powerful that by the end of the Middle Ages in England alone there were 686 churches dedicated to him.

4 nother. MS: nouer.

5 Wel . . . to life. B&S detect a "unique parallel to an idiom found in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale III, iii, 124 and The Merchant of Venice, II, ii, 55 which is synonymous with well-to-do and well-to-pass and is constructed on the same syntactic pattern" (p. 372).

7 Leonard. St. Leonard was a sixth-century hermit who became the patron of pregnant women and prisoners of war and other such captives. As patron saint of captives and prisoners, he became particularly popular in England, where his cult inspired more than 177 churches and shrines. See the Oxford Dictionary of Saints, p. 264. N.b. Chaucer's reference to St. Leonard's nunnery in House of Fame: "On pilgrymage myles two / To the corseynt Leonard, / To make lythe of that was hard" (lines 116-18). See B. C. Koonce, Chaucer and the Traditions of Fame: Symbolism in the House of Fame (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966), pp. 70-71. The Legenda Aurea gives an etymology to his name: Leonardus means "the perfume of the people," from leos, people, and nardus, which is a sweet-smelling herb; and Leonard drew people to himself by the sweet odor of his good renown. See Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend: Reading on the Saints, vol. 2, trans. William Granger Ryan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993) p. 243. This applies well here, since Puella is concerned about her reputation in the eyes of God.

10 hers. MS: s.

12 losyd. MS: losye. Co has losyt.

wile. Co emends to hire, based on his reading of line 1384 in the Childhood of Jesus (c. 1300); "Elles we leosez bothe ore ywile and huyre."

14 this. MS: ys.

hi. In this poem's dialect the scribe frequently aspirates vowels - hi/hy for I/Y (see also lines 17, 22, 58, 61, and 81); hic for ich ("I") (lines 39, 41, 67, and 74); hay for ay (line 18, where the "hay weilaway" means "alas alas"); ham for am (line 22); hand for and (line 24); hif for if (line 16); hers for arse (line 10); hever for ever (line 59); and hup for up (line 64); or lisps on consonants such as s > sh in Damishel (line 1); t > th in Certhes (line 22); and d > dh in dedh (line 43) or ledh (line 44). In some instances he drops h as in efne for hefne (line 25) and aly for haly (line 84). See B&S's discussion of the dialect, pp. 370-72.

16 micht. MS: miche.

the. MS: ye.

17 sory. B&S emend to sorw. Co retains sory, as have I. See also line 36.

25 moder of efne. MS: y mod efne.

32 bytech. MS: by tethy.

33 neulic. MS: neulit.

36 canstu. MS: yu canstu.

37 Mome. The MED defines the term as "an aunt, also affectionate term of address for [an] older woman." It can also mean "old woman." B&S suggest that it is an adaptation of the Old High German muome which means "maternal aunt" (p. 373). The name corresponds to "Dame" Sirith and partly explains why scholars insist on a softening of her character.

38 San Dinis. St. Denis was the first bishop of Paris, having been sent to convert France by Gregory of Tours. He built a center of Christianity on an island in the Seine where he was eventually martyred by decapitation, his body thrown into the Seine. Over his tomb was built the abbey of St. Denis.

41 hauntes MS: haus. Abbreviated, with hole in the MS between u and s.

42 lydy. Co emends to led.

47 Malkyn. According to the MED, this name has pejorative implications meaning "servant woman," "young woman of the lower classes," or "a woman of loose morals." See Chaucer's Introduction to The Man of Law's Tale, where lost time is compared to "Malkynes maydenhede, / Whan she hath lost it in hir wantownesse" (CT II[B1]30-31).

Y wene. MS: or mene.

62 Riche. MS: Richc. Co emends to Riche, as have I; B&S follow MS.

63 wat. MS: vat.

67-68 B&S (p. 373) detect either a corrupt rhyme word or a lacuna of two lines or more that rhyme with lam (line 67) and love (line 68).

75 De profundis. Derived from Psalm 130, this phrase is used in the Office of the Dead.

76 yn. MS: y. B&S's emendation.

79 B&S: "The rhyme words here show that a line has been omitted, and the contextual inadequacy of 80 that it was after this line" (p. 373).

80 thay. MS: Hay.

82 henged. MS: heng'.

83 onne me. B&S emend to me on. Co emends to me onne.


















"Damishel, reste wel!"

"Sir, welcum, by Saynt Michel!"

"Wer es ty sire, wer es ty dame?"

"By Gode, es nother her at hame."

"Wel wor suilc a man to life
That suilc a may mihte have to wyfe."

"Do way, by Crist and Leonard,
No wil Y lufe na clerc fayllard,
Ne kep I herbherg, clerc, in huse, no y flore,   
Bot his hers ly wituten dore.
Go forth thi way, god sire,
For her hastu losyd al thi wile."

"Nu, nu, by Crist and by Sant Jhon;
In al this land ne wis hi none,
Mayden, that I luf mor than thee,
Hif me micht ever the bether be.
For thee hy sory nicht and day,
Y may say, hay waylevay!
Y luf thee mar than mi lif,
Thu hates me mar than gayt dos chnief.
That es nouct for mysgilt,
Certhes, for thi luf ham hi spilt.
A, suythe mayden, reu of me,
That es ty luf hand ay sal be,
For the luf of the moder of efne,
Thu mend thi mode and her my stevene!"

"By Crist of hevene and Sant Jone,
Clerc of scole ne kep I non,
For many god wymman haf thai don scam -
By Crist, thu michtis haf ben at hame!"

"Synt it nothir gat may be,
Jesu Christ bytech Y thee,
And send neulic bot tharinne,
That Yi be lesit of al my pyne."

"Go nu, truan, go nu, go,
For mikel canstu of sory and wo!"

"God te blis, Mome Helwis!"

Mome Elwis
"Son, welcum, by San Dinis!"

"Hic am comin to thee, mome,
Thu hel me noth, thu say me sone.
Hic am a clerc that hauntes scole,
Y lydy my life wyt mikel dole.
Me wor lever to be dedh,
Than led the lif that hyc ledh
For ay mayden with and schen,
Fayrer ho lond haw Y non syen.
Yo hat mayden Malkyn, Y wene.
Nu thu wost quam Y mene.
Yo wonys at the tounes ende,
That suyt lif so fayr and hende.
Bot if yo wil hir mod amende,
Neuly Crist my ded me send!
Men kend me hyder, uytuten fayle,
To haf thi help an ty cunsalye;
Tharfor am Y cummen here,
That thu salt be my herand-bere,
To mac me and that mayden sayct,
And hi sal gef thee of my nayct,
So that hever al thi lyf
Saltu be the better wyf.
So help me Crist, and hy may spede,
Riche saltu haf thi mede."

Mome Elwis
"A, son, wat saystu? Benedicité!
Lift hup thi hand and blis thee!
For it es boyt syn and scam,
That thu on me hafs layt thys blam,
For hic am an ald quyne and a lam,
Y led my lyf wit Godis love,
Wit my roc Y me fede,
Can I do non othir dede,
Bot my Pater Noster and my Crede,
To say Crist for missedede,
And myn Avy Mary -
For my scynnes hic am sory -
And my De profundis
For al that yn sin lys;
For can I me non othir think -
That wot Crist, of hevene kync.
Jesu Crist of hevene hey,
Gef that thay may heng hey,
And gef that hy may se,
That thay be henged on a tre,
That this ley as leyit onne me.
For aly wyman am I on."


St. Michael; (see note)

Where is your father; mother

neither is here at home; (see note)

Well-off would such a man [be in] life; (see note)
such a maid might

[St.] Leonard; (see note)
I will not love a good-for-nothing clerk
Nor; lodging; house; on floor
Except that; arse; outside door; (see note)
good sir
here you have lost all your desire; (see note)

St. John
know I none; (see note)
love more
(see note)
I sorrow [both] night; (see note)
alas alas
I love you more; life
more; goat; [the] knife
because of my having done amiss
Truly; I
Ah, wonderful; take pity on
your love and ever shall be
love; mother of heaven; (see note)
change your mind; hear; plea (voice)

St. John

[to] many good; have they done shame
might [as well] have stayed home

commend; (see note)
quickly (newly) remedy; (see note)
released; pain

now, beggar
much do you know; (see note)

bless you, Dame Eloise; (see note)

St. Denis; (see note)

[If] you cannot heal me, tell me at once
(see note)
I lead; much sorrow; (see note)
I would rather be dead
white and shining
Fairer in land have
She was called; I think; (see note)
you know whom I mean
She lives
Unless she; mood (mind) change
Swiftly; death
sent; without fail
and your

go-between (errand bearer)
make; reconciled

You shall be
if I may prosper
Richly; reward; (see note)

what did you say; (see note)
up your; bless yourself
is but; shame
blame (task)
an old woman; am lame; (see note)

Know; occupation
confess [to] Christ for [my] sins
Ave Maria
sins I; sorry
"Out of the depths"; (see note)
lies; (see note)

high; (see note)
hang high; (see note)

(see note)
lie; laid on me; (see note)
holy woman; one
Interludium de clerico et puella, Select Bibliography


British Library MS Additional 23986, vellum roll, verso side (early fourteenth century).


Bennett, J. A. W., and G. V. Smithers, eds. Early Middle English Verse and Prose. Second edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968. Pp. 196-200.

Chambers, E. K. The Mediaeval Stage. 2 vols. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1903. Pp. 324-26.

Cook, Albert Stanburrough, ed. A Literary Middle English Reader. Boston: Ginn and Company, 1915; rpt. 1943. Pp. 476-80. [Cook entitles the play "The Cleric and the Maiden" and adds scene divisions and stage directions.]

Dickins, B., and R. M. Wilson. Early Middle English Texts. London: Bowes & Bowes, 1956. Pp. 121-22.

Wright, Thomas, and James Orchard Halliwell, eds. Reliquiae Antiquae. Scraps From Ancient Manuscripts, Illustrating Chiefly Early English Literature and the English Language. 2 vols. London: John Russell Smith, 1845. Vol. 1, pp. 145-47.

Related Studies

Axton, Richard. "Popular Modes in the Earliest Plays." In Medieval Drama. Ed. Neville Denny. London: Edward Arnold, 1973. Pp. 13-39.

---. European Drama of the Early Middle Ages. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1975.

Busby, Keith. "Dame Sirith and De Clerico et Puella." In Companion to Early Middle English Literature. Ed. N. H. G. E. Veldhoen and H. Aertsen. Amsterdam: Free University Press, 1988. Pp. 69-81.

Gayley, Charles M. Representative English Comedies. London: Macmillan Co., 1903. Pp. xiii-xviii.

Heuser, W. "Das Interludium de Clerico et Puella und das Fabliau von Dame Siriz." Anglia 30 (1907), 306-19.

Miller, B. D. H. "Further Notes on Interludium de Clerico et Puella." Notes and Queries 208 [n.s. 10] (1963), 248-89.

Moore, Bruce. "The Narrator within the Performance: Problems with Two Medieval 'Plays.'" In Drama in the Middle Ages: Comparative and Critical Essays: Second Series. Ed. Clifford Davidson and John H. Stroupe. New York: AMS Press, 1991. Pp. 152-67.

Nicoll, Allardyce. Masks, Mimes, and Miracles: Studies in the Popular Theatre. London: Cooper Square, 1963. Pp. 171-75.

Richardson, Frances E. "Notes on the Text and Language of Interludium de Clerico et Puella." Note and Queries 207 [n.s. 9] (1962), 133-34.